A gang who abducted a five-year-old British boy from his grandmother's home in Pakistan contacted the boy's father on Friday, it was claimed last night.
Despite a massive police operation, and several arrests, nothing had been heard of Sahil Saeed, from Oldham in Greater Manchester, since he was abducted by an armed gang during a robbery on his grandmother's home in the city of Jhelum in the Punjab on Wednesday.
Reports last night, however, claimed the kidnap gang had contacted Sahil's father, Raja, by telephone on Friday. "The boy is with us and we will call you later," he was told, according to Sky News.
Sahil was visiting his family in Pakistan with his father, when the grenade-wielding kidnappers struck, allegedly subjecting the family to a six-hour ordeal. They left with Sahil and demanded a £100,000 ransom for his safe release.
Mr Saeed has remained in Pakistan in a desperate wait for his son's safe return. Sahil's mother, Akila Naqqash, yesterday made an emotional appeal to the kidnappers from the family home in Oldham.
"I just want my son back. All is forgiven, I will forgive you," she said. "You may have children yourself. I forgive you. All we can do is just pray for him. I am hopeful, I am just praying all day and every night."
Ms Naqqash renewed her appeal to Gordon Brown and governments worldwide to step up their efforts.
"Gordon Brown and other countries, just do anything to get my son back. We can just hope and pray, and see what they can do."
She also thanked well-wishers from across the country who have sent cards to the family. "It is a really good comfort that people from the UK have sent us cards of support. Sahil's friends have made pictures for him. We have had loads of support from everyone. All I can say is thank you."
Her sister, Amrana Iftikhar, added: "Everyone is just praying, all our relatives all round the country. We just want Sahil back safely. Please help us bring this innocent child back home."
A spokeswoman for the Pakistan High Commission in London said yesterday that police in Jhelum had made several arrests and were confident Sahil will be found.
"They have arrested many people," she said. "The police are really confident that they will find him. The main worry is whether the child is being well treated. We think it is a criminal gang and we have positive leads. They might have known that he was British and thought [the family] were wealthy. Sometimes they know if someone has come from abroad."
Up to 10 family members inside the house were beaten by the intruders, who took items believed to be jewellery and money.
Ms Naqqash spoke of the growing frustration of relatives as they waited for news. "We are getting no answers," she said. "How are they treating him? Is he eating? He is just a little boy, what has he done wrong?"